When Tripping.com’s customer base wasn’t interested in buying what it planned to sell, the company had to find a new model—and let go of the past.
Ever visit a foreign city and wish you could hang with a local— someone to give you insider tips on the community and culture? Jen O’Neal and Jeff Manheimer were betting on it. “We wanted to build a social travel site, a place for cultural exchange,” says O’Neal. “If you’re in Paris or Prague or Shanghai, we’ll help you meet a local for a beer.”
They called the new social network Tripping.com and launched it at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010. A month later, they had members in 150 countries. Joining was free; the company planned to make money as an affiliate for big travel sites—when a member booked flights, hotel rooms, or rental cars, Tripping.com would get a cut. But that didn’t happen; there was no interest in booking flights, hotel rooms, or rental cars.
The duo had stumbled upon a common business problem: Sometimes an idea is popular but just not monetizable. “We looked at our user base and realized that most of them were in their early 20s,” O’Neal says. “A lot were still students, with very small budgets. And they just weren’t in a place to buy.
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